Leaked Facebook memo prizes growth over user safety

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote about “the ugly truth” in connecting people in a 2016 memo. Boz now says he was trying to be “provocative.”

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

A leaked Facebook memo from 2016 describes the consequences of growth.


Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, a top Facebook executive, is known for being outspoken. On Thursday, Bosworth's comments came back to haunt him.

The head of Facebook's hardware business is under fire for an internal memo penned in 2016 in which he appears to stress the company's growth above anything else, even if it means enabling bullying or violence.

"So we connect more people," he wrote in the memo, entitled "The Ugly," according to a report by BuzzFeed. "That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools."

"And still we connect people," he continued. "The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good."

Bosworth, a trusted lieutenant to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has become one of the most vocal leaders at Facebook since joining the social network 2006. He previously ran Facebook's advertising business and now leads the company's virtual and augmented reality projects.

When the advertising rates of the Trump and Clinton campaigns came into question last month, Boz tweeted out internal data about the prices. Boz was also the first to tweet out news earlier this month that Facebook had decided to ban Cambridge Analytica, a digital analytics firm that gained access to ill-gotten data from 50 million Facebook accounts.

In a series of tweets, Boz acknowledged the memo, saying it was meant to stir debate inside the social network. 

"The purpose of this [memo], like many others I have written internally, was to bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion with the broader company," he tweeted.

In a follow up tweet, he added: "It was intended to be provocative. This was one of the most unpopular things I've ever written internally and the ensuing debate helped shape our tools for the better."  

In a statement, Zuckerberg said he disagreed with the memo, too. "We've never believed the ends justify the means," he said. "We recognize that connecting people isn't enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together."

News of the memo comes as Facebook continues to reel from the Cambridge Analytica controversy, which raised questions about the company's user data practices. Facebook, which has more than 2 billion users, has also faced scrutiny about its size and influence in the world in the wake of Russian trolls abusing its platform to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and sow discord among Americans. 

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